HomeBad Ass AsiansFather Writes Children's Book to Show Daughter Characters that Look Like Her

Father Writes Children’s Book to Show Daughter Characters that Look Like Her

Pepper ZhangChildren’s books are supposed to be a good learning experience for kids and an opportunity for parents to spend time with their children; however, it wasn’t that simple for Jerry Zhang and his daughter. These books led to a rather heartbreaking realization for the Chinese American father of two, reports INQUIRER.net.

Zhang’s daughter Madison was a fan of the blonde- and red-haired characters in her books. She wanted to be like these girls, so Zhang even tried getting Madison to read books involving Chinese girls – however, they were too “heavily cultural” for her to identify with. “She told me she didn’t want to be Chinese anymore, and it broke my heart,” said Zhang.

Writer and lawyer Zhang then decided that he would write his own children’s book to fix this problem of representation. “In 2016, out of 3,200 children’s books published in the United States, only 7 percent featured Asian children,” Zhang noted. “Yet there are 17 million Asian Americans in this country.”

He wanted to have a main character who his daughter and other Asian American girls would be able to relate to. Pepper Zhang: Artist Extraordinaire! follows Pepper Zhang, an Asian toddler who refuses to go to bed, leading to the self-discovery of her artistic talent.

A 2011 study showed that, in general, girls are widely underrepresented in children’s books, with only 31 percent of 5,600 books having female central characters. This underrepresentation “contributes to a sense of unimportance among girls and a sense of privilege among boys,” noted lead researcher Janice McCabe, associate professor of sociology at Dartmouth College.

“Representation does matter and I’m hoping the book and future books in the series will provide an option for children of all backgrounds to see a fun, strong and interesting Asian child as the hero of the story.” Zhang told HuffPost. “Madison is super excited about the project and even recently expressed an interest in learning Chinese! I’ve also heard from friends of mine that their kids are pointing to Pepper and saying, ‘That’s me!'”

Zhang plans to independently publish the book, as part of a series, using Kickstarter to currently crowd fund. The $5,000 goal was vastly exceeded, with over $30,000 pledged.

“My broader mission is to bring Pepper Zhang onto the bookshelves of libraries, book stores, schools and homes of children all across America and beyond!” said Zhang, as he has the potential to help a movement that is attempting to increase minority representation in children’s media.

Read part of Zhang’s story on Konbini.

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